Costco’s 4Q results top Wall Street expectations

ISSAQUAH — Costco is drawing more shoppers and signing up more new members, helping the wholesale club operator’s fiscal fourth-quarter net income and revenue climb. Its performance beat Wall Street’s expectations, and its shares hit an all-time high Wednesday.

Consumers have been drawn to stores like Costco, BJ’s Wholesale Club and Sam’s Club because they feel like they are getting bargains by purchasing items in bulk. Memberships at such stores have continued to rise in recent years as shoppers worried about the economy and high unemployment look for ways to save money.

For the period ended Sept. 2, Costco Wholesale Corp. said Wednesday that it earned $609 million, or $1.39 per share. That compares with $478 million, or $1.08 per share, a year earlier.

There was an extra week in the current quarter.

Analysts predicted earnings of $1.31 per share, according to a FactSet survey.

Costco shares climbed $2.90, or 2.9 percent, to $102.54 in afternoon trading. The stock reached $104.43 earlier in the session, a new all-time high.

Total revenue increased 14 percent to $32.22 billion from $28.18 billion as sales improved and the Issaquah company made more money from membership fees. Wall Street expected revenue of $31.59 billion.

Membership fee income totaled $694 million in the quarter as renewal rates came in at approximately 90 percent. New memberships climbed 2 percent from a year ago. The company said that there were also more shoppers visiting its clubs.

Sales of softlines, which can include items like clothing and footwear, posted a high single-digit percentage increase, with small electric appliances among the strongest within the category. Sales of food and small items like toiletries rose by a mid-single-digit percentage, as did hardlines, which can include hardware and lawn and garden products.

Online sales climbed 14 percent.

Revenue at stores open at least a year, a key gauge of a retailer’s health, climbed 5 percent. The figure rose 6 percent in the U.S. and 2 percent internationally. It is a key performance indicator for retailers because it excludes results from stores recently opened or closed.

Costco said higher gas prices and foreign currency exchange rates hurt its performance a bit.

Stripping out their impact, revenue at stores open at least a year rose 6 percent for the total company and for its U.S. locations. Clubs overseas reported a 7 percent increase.

Costco said that its full-year net income rose 17 percent to $1.71 billion, or $3.89 per share, from $1.46 billion, or $3.30 per share, in the previous year. Annual revenue climbed 12 percent to $99.14 billion from $88.92 billion.

Revenue at stores open at least a year increased 7 percent for the total company and U.S. clubs. Internationally, the metric rose 6 percent.

Excluding the impact of higher gas prices and foreign currency exchange rates, the figure climbed 6 percent for the total company and U.S. clubs. It rose 8 percent abroad.

Costco ended fiscal 2012 with 608 warehouses in operation, including 439 in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, 82 in Canada, 32 in Mexico, 22 in the U.K., 13 in Japan, nine in Taiwan, eight in Korea and three in Australia.

It opened 16 new locations in fiscal 2012. The company is planning to open about 27 to 30 new warehouse clubs in fiscal 2013.

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